First race of the Imperial Winter Series. There were two of us from Finchley Racing Team competing in the 4th Category event - both of us South Africans racing for the first time in the UK. We'd raced before back in SA, but separately and many, many years ago. Werner is 29 and I'm 31 and we were competing against guys that were for the most part 5-10 years younger than us, so it was a bit daunting. We have been training together with our club in London for the past 6 months, so we felt reasonably in shape.
After a few laps around the 2km course as a warm up, 55 riders lined up for the start. We had no concrete tactics - today would be a test of what the field was like and how we'd do against them. Werner was keen to break away from the gun, whereas I wanted to sit in, conserve energy and try for a break with 1-2 laps to go. The race was 30 minutes plus 5 laps, was completely closed circuit and featured only one really sharp corner, 200m from the start/finish line. We were given the go from the race official.
I managed to clip in and accelerate away pretty quickly and arrived at the sharp right-hander in about 15th wheel. the pace was manic throughout the first lap, but i managed to keep in the slipstream and in the top 20. My teammate was constantly in the top 5 places, looking for a break to go with. I was happy just not being dropped. On about the 5th lap i saw a gap had opened at the front and Werner was in it - 4 guys got away.
The pace increased for the next lap and i was just trying to hang on to the wheel in front of me, but soon realised that holding the wheel was not good enough. I saw another gap open up ahead - about 10 guys were chasing down my teammates group and they were leaving my group behind. Someone from behind must have noticed this because he went sprinting after them. I jumped on his wheel, hoping to get a lift to the leading chase group. We chased for a lap and eventually caught them. During this chase someone shouted at me to hold my line, but I hadn't done anything wrong - I told him to shut up take a chill pill. My god... I was trash talking. It felt cool and nasty!
The pace suddenly slacked off, but i knew there were still 4 guys up ahead which included Werner. Someone asked loudly if we'd caught them. I replied loudly that we had...and dropped them already! Hopefully they would believe me... We cruised along at a medium pace for another lap, but then some guys saw the breakaway on the opposite side of the course and the chase was back on.
The pain started creeping up on me as the pace was quickened - I could taste blood in my throat and my legs were turning to rubber. the pace was affecting other riders too - one guy cornered too wide and leaned into me from my inside, pushing me across the road, but managed to control it, both of us coming out OK. He apologised but I smiled - I was digging the danger and thrill of this race. From about this point I started feeling pumped with adrenaline and moved up in the pack.
My teammate's break was still out ahead, but with 2 laps to go I could see that we'd dragged them back to about 20 seconds. On the last lap the pace seemed to relax somewhat - I think they knew they weren't going to catch them. Just as i though about moving up in the pack for a possible sprint for 5th place, someone accelerated away off the front and the pace went up to 45-48kph. I couldn't further my position and by the time we arrived at the line i was toward the back of the group for an eventual placing of about 20th overall.
I found Werner after the warm-down lap. His sprinting was about as good as mine and as a result placed last in his group - 4th overall for the race. We were both fairly satisfied, but spoke about ways to improve our sprinting during the drive home. Next week we'll try again...
Here's some Garmin data, but i forgot to press stop at the end and only turned it off half-way through the warm down lap. Also forgot to wear my HR strap...